Ike Pappas, the longtime CBS News correspondent whose live radio report of Lee Harvey Oswald's murder following the assassination of John F. Kennedy secured him a special role in history, died Sunday of heart failure in Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington. He was 75.
During his 23-year career at CBS News, Pappas covered wars, political events and the civil rights protests of the 1960s. But perhaps the defining moment of his journalistic career came as a radio reporter for WNEW New York covering Oswald's prison transfer in 1963.
As he asked Oswald a question, Jack Ruby brushed past Pappas to shoot and kill Oswald. "Oswald has been shot … mass confusion," reported Pappas during his live broadcast, which also captured Oswald's last words. Pappas later offered key testimony at Ruby's trial and appeared before the Warren Commission investigating Kennedy's assassination. "The man in the white raincoat," as he was identified, was also an integral part of the best-selling record album about the tragedy, "Four Days That Shocked the World."
Pappas joined CBS News 11 months later in October 1964 as a writer and reporter for the radio series "Dimensions." He also served as a general assignment reporter covering major stories including the 1964 presidential election, the historic Selma civil rights march and racial troubles in New York City.
He was named a CBS News correspondent in May of 1967 after returning from a seven-month assignment covering the Vietnam War. Based in Chicago, he reported on several key stories for "The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite" including the funeral of former President Harry S. Truman, the assassination and funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and college campus unrest.
Pappas was on the Kent State University campus with a CBS News film crew when the Ohio National Guard shot four students in May 1970. He also covered the Six Day War in 1967 and the launch of Apollo 11 from Cape Kennedy in July 1969.
In 1970, while reporting on the civil war in Jordan, Pappas was detained along with several other journalists and held in a hotel during some of the conflict.
Pappas served as a Pentagon correspondent for seven years beginning in 1975. During this time, he went overseas to cover the conflict in Lebanon, reporting the advance of Israeli troops into Beirut. In 1985, he became the CBS News congressional correspondent.
He began his career as a magazine writer and then became a reporter for United Press International before joining WNEW Radio in New York in 1958.
Pappas left CBS News in 1987 as one of more than a dozen on-air reporters and 200 other staffers laid off in a cost-cutting move by new ownership.
In the following years, he started his own television production company, Papas Network Productions, through which he produced fundraising videos and local programming, including "Crimewatch Tonight," a syndicated nightly crime report he anchored himself. He also worked to create entertainment television programming and provided media coaching to individuals. Of his separation from CBS News, Pappas told Electronic Media in 1988: "I come from a line of Greek people who have always greeted tough times with a determination to make things better. I took a negative and turned it into a positive and I couldn't be happier."
Pappas made an appearance in the 1988 comedy, "Moon Over Parador," playing himself in the film starring Richard Drefuss and Raul Julia. This led to another appearance as himself in the Gene Hackman - Tommy Lee Jones film "The Package" the next year.
Born Icarus Nestor Pappas in Queens, NY on April 16, 1933, Pappas attended local schools before graduating from Long Island University. He served in the U.S. Army in Germany from 1954-56, contributing to the Armed Forces Network and Stars and Stripes.
He is survived by his wife of 45 years, the former Carolyn Hoffman of Pekin, Il.; three children: Theodore of Newport Beach, Calif.; Alexander of Sugarland, Texas; and Sarah Thomason of Greenville, SC.; and two grandchildren: Christos and Nicholas Pappas.